How to Figure Out What Passion to Adopt in your Life
When I think of the word “passion” (I don’t even really like that word, but let’s roll with it. I think of a lot of things, like being passionate about music or learning or nutrition. I even think about passion in relationships. But I think what most people seek when thinking about “Passion” is the answer to the dreadful question: “What do I want to do with my life?” It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times throughout my life, and that I still ask sometimes.
I think it’s safe to say that wanting to construct a life for yourself where you get to spend your time, energy, and attention on the things you enjoy is a universal desire. And I also think there’s this innate fear of living an unfulfilling life, and finding your passion then sounds like the antidote to that, which is why the search for it can sometimes become a desperate one.
We want to find something worth committing to. Now, we recently talked about purpose, which is the “Why“, today I’d like to talk about passion, which is the “What“, and I’d like to discuss with you why I think the framing “Finding your Passion” or “Searching for your Passion” which we often see being thrown around, is tricky, and perhaps even misleading.
I’m going to be talking from the perspective of someone who has “Found their Passion”, or at least found a passion (I definitely think you can have multiple) which is this: creating videos, writing, storytelling, filmmaking, and all the other things that it entails. Now, I don’t have all of this figured out by any means, I’m still pondering and wondering, but I’d like to share some of that pondering with you, mainly 3 things that I’ve personally come to learn, things that I had gotten completely wrong from the beginning…
Problem 1: Passions are Formed, Not Found
I guess I used to believe that we were each born with a list of ready-to-use interests that were scattered, waiting to be discovered, or worse, that I could just sit around, and they would come to find me, which makes just as much sense as waiting for your dream prince or princess to show up at your door. Sure, some people come off the womb singing and continue to sing for the rest of their lives.
And Yes, I do think that there are some things we’re more inclined to have interest in based on our personality and belief system and whatnot, but I think a general belief that passions are found and not formed can be misleading, for four reasons mainly.
Firstly, I think it’s just frustrating to think that way. I know for me, it made me look at others who seemed to have found their passion and think “Why haven’t I Found Mine?!”. Like, where is that sucker hiding? Secondly, I think it’s limiting. I think there are a lot of things that I could be doing that could potentially turn into “Passions”. I’m not limiting myself by believing that there must be certain things I’m meant to be discovering.
I prefer to view the world as my playground, and I think having that mindset creates space for opportunities to happen. Thirdly, I’ve learned that the way to discover or reveal or whatever word you’d like to use, anything, is by actually doing stuff.
A psychologist named Jerome Bruner said, “You’re more likely to act yourself into feeling than feeling yourself into action.”
Sharing stories online wasn’t something that I did once and instantly became passionate about. I mean, yes, I was interested and curious about it, but the passion was a by-product of a lot of time, energy, dedication, and progress. Of building a community and forming connections and feeling a sense of accountability.
Those were some of the building blocks that formed it into a passion; I didn’t find it that way. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to figure out this passion thing, and I’m definitely guilty of this too, is to just think about it. We try to rationalize and figure things out in our heads. It’s like spending all day on your couch trying to figure out if you’re a good match with someone or not before you’ve even met them or only met them a couple of times.
And sure, sometimes you just know right away that it’s not a good match, but typically, in order to really know, you would need to actually talk to them, spend time with them to figure that out. Clarity doesn’t come from thinking; it comes from doing.
The fourth thing I’d like to bring upon this point is a quote, and I can’t remember who said it, “Success Fuels Passion more than Passion Fuels Success”. Like, let’s say you’re an aspiring photographer who’s just starting out, and you go outside to take some photos and you get back home to check them and you think they all suck. Inevitably, you’re likely going to feel bummed, and it might be off-putting.
Let’s however say you go out there enough times and eventually your photos turn out great, that will likely fuel you. I remember when I had a sales job that I didn’t like. And I remember one time my boss came to me and was like “You made the most Sales this Month!”. And I was like oh, wow… maybe sales IS actually fun! That fueled me and made me want to put more effort into it; I started enjoying it more.
Problem 2: I had a Romanticized Idea about what Finding your Passion was like Now.
I’ve mentioned all these positive words like excitement and fun, which brings me to this point: I think part of the reason a lot of people feel confused about their “Passion” is because of the way it’s often portrayed in media and films and whatnot. We may think of the artist who has lost contact with friends and who sleeps on a mattress in their studio, spending all wake hours dancing around their canvas, creating painting after painting, fueled by their passion for their art.
We may even think of the toxic relationships Hollywood loves portraying to us in movies and tv-shows. So, I think we’re brought up on this idea that passion needs to be this intense, obsessive, feeling, and that that is desirable, and if it doesn’t feel intense enough, then it’s simply not right and we should keep on looking. Essentially, we let our feelings be the sole guide when we’re out on our quest to discover our passion.
Here’s one of the problems I see with this. Feelings change. We change. And if you’re only reliant on how you feel about the things you do, rather than seeing to things like, “What am I good at?”, “Where lies Opportunity?”, “What’s Rational for me to do?”, you’ll likely have difficulty sticking things out when your feelings aren’t cooperating. Nothing is fun all the time. Nothing is smooth sailing all the time. And it shouldn’t be.
So, viewing passion that way is to only paint half the picture. Personally, I think the main difference between my corporate job and what I’m doing now is that I’m now suffering for something I actually care about, which, I guess to most people, is better than suffering for something you don’t care about.
As Mark Manson wrote in one of his blog posts: “What determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” The question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?”
Problem 3: Seeking too Far Finally
I’d like to share this quote by Hermann Hesse: “What could I say to you that would be of value, except that perhaps you seek too much, that as a result of your seeking you cannot find”.
Oftentimes, we already know what we like; we know what we tend to gravitate towards, what we love talking about and learning about and thinking about and teaching about. But we either
a) Don’t take note of it, because we think that nothing great could possibly be right in front of our noses because we’re inclined to complicate things, or
b) we’re held back by fear; because we either have limiting beliefs about what’s possible, or we view ourselves as inferior to others. I remember one time, I was at a social gathering where there were a lot of people with jobs that they loved talking about: creatives, founders, artists. And at the time, I was working a job that I didn’t enjoy.
So, whenever the job conversation came up and I heard everyone speak so fondly of how they spent their time, I thought to myself “why don’t I have that?”. And actually, that social gathering, which I didn’t even want to go to at first, ended up being a wake-up call I didn’t know I needed. I got to experience firsthand that in fact, SO much is possible, and everyone here is a person just like I am.
If they can spend their time doing what they enjoy, then so can I, and so can you. And I’m willing to bet none of those people woke up with a letter on their desk from Passion land, they created their own passion land.